As promised, this post makes up for the last week’s serious tone & lack of photos. Plus, I’ve decided this is a special, double post week (Women Tell All & The Final Rose, if you will). And that’s because right now, one year ago, Ben and I were boarding a plane to go get M A R R I E D !
Well, fun married. We were kinda already married. Let’s rewind, shall we?
Ben and I got engaged in December 2016, and knew we had to get married fairly soon after. The Air Force will only station dual-military couples together if they’re legally married; if we waited on that, it could be years before we lived in the same place. It wasn’t super important to us that we physically live together before marriage, but I hated the thought of leaving a beautiful wedding to take separate flights home. So, Ben and I made a deal – we would get court married in the summer of 2017, then wait until we were stationed together for the “fun wedding” with our families and friends.
That might sound very strange, but it’s fairly common with military couples!
Cue March 29, 2019, the second best day of my life (because the first was our court wedding, of course) Despite the 20-month gap between legal wedding and ‘fun wedding,’ Ben and I knew that Spring 2019 was our best bet for several reasons:
- Ben wouldn’t be deployed (yay!)
- We’d both be living in North Dakota & stationed at the same base
- The wedding would be “off-season” and therefore, less expensive (in the end, we got married 29 Mar and “on-season” started 1 Apr. Nice)
- Spring, particularly that week, seemed to work for every member of the wedding party!
Picking the location was a little trickier, though. A winter/early spring wedding in our home states of Illinois and Minnesota did NOT sound extremely appealing – neither did a wedding in remote North Dakota. So we settled on a destination wedding to a place neither of us had been – the beautiful Napa Valley.
We were ‘married’ in St. Helena, California, south of Napa Valley in the gorgeous V. Sattui winery. Ben and I visited V. Sattui in late 2017 and immediately knew it was the perfect venue. It was all stone and vines, very reminiscent of Italy, and we could have the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception all at the same exclusive location.
We picked V. Sattui’s stone courtyard for our ceremony and the barrel room for our reception…and that is where the “we” in “wedding planning” ended. Ben put his stamp of approval on the venue and then golfed from Fall 2017 until the late afternoon of March 28. He told me later everything looked “very nice.” Thanks darling!
Because we booked the venue so far in advance and I had a lot of time while pulling alert, I really enjoyed wedding planning! I wanted the wedding to be three things: elegant, tasty, and fun as heck. I viewed the whole thing as a party, and tried to put myself in the shoes of our guests when making decisions. For example, extra flowers or extra appetizers? Apps, of course. Pics after the ceremony? Nah – our guests would want to eat and chat with us! Super late night? Heck no…not trying to drag this out longer than it has to go. That’s what the Napa bars & party bus are for!
Our ‘wedding’ colors were dusty blue, gold, and cream with hints of purple and smoky gray – very evident in the flower arrangements, bridesmaids dresses, and reception tables. I had THE best time with our fabulous florist Andrew and wedding planner Darlene (the venue required a planner and I am SO thankful we found her) in choosing the colors and corresponding decorations.
I absolutely AGONIZED over florals, because I couldn’t spend a fortune but I could have easily spent a fortune. They’re just so gorgeous (and so expensive!!!) In the end, my florist saved me; he provided a quote with every single expense listed, and then gave advice on what to cut and what to keep. He was also amazing about reusing various arrangements, and moved them all himself!
My bridesmaids bouquets went onto reception tables, the giant fountain arrangement moved to the patio cocktail hour, and the ceremony barrels were moved inside to flank the Head Table.
Andrew was also responsible for executing my reception vision, all greenery with crystal candlesticks and beautiful ivory candlesticks. Every detail was so beautiful, I truly don’t think the pictures can truly do them justice.
My dress was actually the first thing I chose, only two weeks after Ben proposed! I KNOW that’s nuts, but it was kind of an accident. I was stationed in California at the time, and my girlfriends and I took a trip to LA to try some on “just for fun.” Of course, that meant we had to go to a fancy designer place and try on fancy designer dresses. Had to. And why not fly my mom out, since tickets were cheap it was the first time trying on dresses?
Long story short, I fell in love with the third one I tried on and bought it right then and there…two whole years before I’d wear it. It was made by the Say Yes to the Dress designer Lazaro, and the total opposite of what I expected to love! I don’t think I’ll ever get over the gorgeous pattern or the train, which was my absolute favorite part and which I would drag around FOREVER if I could.
After I found it, I asked Ben what type of dress he thought it was. He had no idea (and little interest, honestly) but guessed it was the “poufy” kind.
However, after seeing many many ‘princess’ pictures of girls in big romantic skirts, I did buy an overskirt for pics and our first dance. Ben loved it, and I am obsessed with the pictures!
Bridesmaids & Groomsmen
Ben wanted his guys to wear black tuxes, which was easy enough. I, on the other hand, had a hard time choosing dresses for my girls. For one thing, I don’t love bridesmaids dresses that are all identical; for another, the seven of us were scattered across the country. After much consultation with my MOH Betsy, I decided to let them pick whatever dresses they wanted, in a dusty blue color. I URGED them to wear whatever was most comfortable and to borrow, hit up sales racks, and spend as little as possible!
All I can say is, holy COW my friends have amazing taste!!! (One even found hers on a Nordstrom sales rack for under $30. YES.) The overall effect was 100 times better than if I had planned it. It doesn’t hurt that my mom fit the color scheme too, and my girls looked AMAZING with the guys in tuxes!
Details, Details, Details
These were maybe the most fun part, because I felt PURE VICTORY whenever I DIY’d or found things on sale. I loved thrifting for mirrors, frames and candleholders, and choosing the gold paint for all the pieces. I also spent hours scouring Etsy for affordable invitations, placeholders, wedding favors and confetti, and landed on things that I absolutely loved.
The only parts I truly disliked was mailing the invites (so many freaking stamps, and I spent 1 million years inputting addresses to a spreadsheet for my invitation girl on Etsy) and making the guest list itself. I wanted to invite like three hundred people and our venue capped out at FAR less than that. I also dreamed of gorgeous wood tables for everyone, not just the head table, but WHO KNEW TABLE RENTALS ARE SO DANG EXPENSIVE??
If you can’t tell…photos were VERY important to me, and I scoured the internet for the best in the biz. Luckily, I found her!! These gorgeous photos are from Elyse Whall of Plum & Oak Photography, a San Diego-based photographer and an an absolute dream. She made sure our preferences were incorporated into the timeline, made us feel extremely comfortable in front of the camera, and gave me the candid shots I craved. Crafting this post was truly difficult because there are SO many beautiful pictures I want to share.
Apps & Dinner
Okay, THIS WAS CRUCIAL. “Delicious food” was literally a wedding goal and I think (from the feedback we received) it was accomplished. We had some AMAZING apps and a family-style dinner, complete with whatever is on that mirror down there. And then, of course, dessert…
This was sliiiiightly secondary to the food because I am not the biggest fan of wedding cake, or cake in general. Ben is also indifferent. There’s truly only ONE type of cake I love, and that is a classic Portillo’s chocolate cake. If you’ve never been to Portillo’s and don’t have one near you, here you go: https://www.portillos.com/portillo-sfamous-chocolate-cake/. Order yourself a chocolate cake and thank me later.
We ordered like 12 chocolate cakes and then my parents, as well as our best family friends, iced them ALL and brought them to the reception! It was the most generous act ever, and an absolute smash hit at the wedding. And while it’s nearly impossible to dislike Portillo’s cake, we set up a mini donut machine just in case. Who knew hot fluffy donuts and wine go so well together?!
Heck yes, there was booze. We were at a winery. No need to say more!
Wedding Week Post II will cover the actual day of the wedding, with more pictures of all those special moments (I’m trying hard not to overlap!) I want to say sorry for all the pics, but it would be a “sorry not sorry” situation. Plus, I’m sure looking at pics >>>> me rambling & more virus talk, any day. Until Sunday!